WASHINGTON -- Production by U.S. manufacturing, mining and utilities industries increased 0.4 percent in April, the fourth straight monthly rise, boosted in part by automakers seeking to keep up with demand.

In its monthly report on industrial production, the U.S. Federal Reserve Board also noted that the use of the nation’s industrial capacity rose slightly to 75.5 percent, from a revised 75.3 percent in March. March production also was revised downward, to a 0.4 percent gain from the previously reported 0.7 percent gain.

The report shows the continued, gradual recovery of the factory sector as it rebounds from sharp decline that started in late 2000. Excluding the automotive sector, however, overall industrial production would have grown a smaller 0.2 percent, the Fed said.

The factory sector, which makes up more than 86 percent of overall industrial production, saw output rise by 0.3 percent, its fourth straight increase. Capacity in use increased to 73.9 percent, its highest level since August.

The Fed also said mining production gained 1.1 percent, almost offsetting a 1.4 percent drop in March. Utilities output was up 0.9 percent in April, a slower growth rate than the 1.4 percent increase in March.